Local play mirrors current events in Egypt.
With the Egyptian revolution at the forefront of our minds–as well as the story of the statue of Pharaoh Akhenaten, stolen from the Cairo Museum during the protests and miraculously recovered (see link above)–it is uncanny that there is currently a play running off-off Broadway about the life of Pharaoh Akhenaten, which mirrors current events in Egypt. Stolen from the Cairo Museum was the statue of a man at the heart of the first Egyptian revolution, three thousand years ago, when the revolutionary Pharaoh Akhenaton convulsed Egyptian society and was himself overthrown. As after the assassination of Anwar Sadat, a corrupt military-run elite government assumed control.
ANKHST, A Play About Pharaoh Akhnaton, by Clarinda Karpov, set in ancient Egypt and in the world of contemporary archeology, is running through March 6 at the American Theatre of Actors, 314 West 54th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 3; there will be a special performance at The New York Open Center, 22 East 30th Street, between 5th and Madison Avenues, on March 12 at 7:30 p.m.
As Akhnaton–husband of legendary beauty Nefertiti and father of King Tut–actor Anwar Uddin leads a multicultural ensemble cast in a colorful production that features Middle Eastern folk dance, work shanties from Karnak, and a setting of the visionary Pharaoh’s own Hymn to the Sun. In the play, passionate archeologist Dr. Alexander Philips, recovering from a breakdown, encounters the ka-spirit of Akhnaton in a squalid tomb. Can Alex, like Akhnaton, risk all to rise a phoenix from the ashes of her life?
“It was extraordinary, to read in the paper day by day, about events that echoed those we were rehearsing,” according to co-director William York Hyde. “In so many ways, this is a play for our time.” Composer Mark Nelson thinks “The recovery of Akhenaten’s statue on the day of our opening means to us that in our own way, we are ‘recovering’ Akhenaten and his story for the modern world, as well.”
Last Saturday’s performance was a fundraiser for the Amarna Project, the archeological team led by Dr. Barry Kemp, CBE, excavating and preserving Akhenaten’s city, Tell el-Amarna in middle Egypt. Dr. Marsha Hill, a curator of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an associate of the Amarna Project, spoke. Dr. Hill said that while other archeological missions left Egypt when the digs were shut down during the revolution, because Dr. Kemp has a base in Cairo, he has been able to remain, pending an expected return to work at Amarna.
Playwright/Producer, ANKHST, A Play About Pharaoh Akhnaton